theater


If you ever held a woman’s hair up while she was vomiting, you know how Patti Blagojevich felt when she did that for fellow contestant Janice Dickinson on Monday’s episode of “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!”

Blagojevich also received a back massage, was awakened by on-site security removing a big snake from camp, bared her soul (again) to John Salley and later narrowly lost to Salley in a trivia trial to determine this week’s camp leader.

Blagojevich and Torrie Wilson earned back massages by beating Salley and Lou Diamond Phillips in a luxury trial called “Walk the Plank.” Blagojevich and Salley stood on planks as their teammates cranked handles to pull back their opponents’ planks. Wilson made Salley fall in the water, so the women got back massages.

Later, Blagojevich and Salley sat in the river as Blagojevich bared her soul again.

“The hardest part about it all was that it took me probably four or five days to get myself out of the constant — this weight that hangs over us that won’t go away for a long time, you know? It just sits there,” Blagojevich said. “And so after a few days it was kind of off a little bit. And that call (to husband Rod last week) just put it back on.”

Blagojevich explained, “My husband looked tired. That’s what got me, you know? He looked a little worn out and it makes me worry that something’s going on that I don’t know about.”

Perhaps she could see Rod’s worry about his impending appearance at last Saturday’s performance of “Rod Blagojevich Superstar.” But I digress.

“When people got you down, they step on you, and when they see you stand up with strength, they back off,” Salley said.

“Well, that was part of the problem, the big decision whether to come here or not,” Blagojevich said. “Because the question is, are you aggravating the U.S. attorney (Patrick Fitzgerald) and then they indict me too, you know? You know it’s coming, in about a year it’s coming with the, you know, we’re going to indict your wife unless you come plead guilty. They’ll say it.

“It’s like, yeah, well go ahead and do it then. You gonna take, you know, make our kids orphans?” she concluded, dealing the sympathy card to her husband’s (and possibly her) potential jury pool.

Patti Blagojevich avoided indictment in early April, but there is an ongoing investigation into her real estate dealings with convicted businessman Tony Rezko. (She allegedly was paid commissions for some deals she did little work on.) Some legal observers suggested she wasn’t indicted so the young Blagojevich children wouldn’t potentially lose both parents to prison.

Anyway, back to the show: Salley later called Patti Blagojevich “my BFF in camp.” (For those who don’t know, BFF stands for “best friend forever” in textese — my word for the shortened language created by text messaging.)

Earlier in the show, Dickinson’s foul mouth prompted this ironic gem from Blagojevich: “She talks about it in a way that my own mother would be ashamed if I spoke that way.”

Of course, Patti Blagojevich was heard cursing in the background of FBI-wiretapped telephone conversations between her husband and associates, and her less-than-ladylike language is lampooned in Second City’s “Rod Blagojevich Superstar.”

Speaking of which, tonight MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann noted Rod Blagojevich’s Saturday appearance at the Second City spoof accordingly: “It’s not clear how much Blagojevich got for the appearance, but you better believe he was paid to play.”

Well said, Keith.

On what Second City actor Joey Bland called “the most surreal day of my life,” former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich made a guest appearance at the Saturday night production of “Rod Blagojevich Superstar,” a satirical play that mocks Blagojevich’s political career.

The day was surreal for Bland because he plays the role of the hair-obsessed Blagojevich and performed his act in front of the real former governor. Television reports said Blagojevich sat stone-faced through much of the performance, but occasionally laughed during the play’s more over-the-top moments.

“It’s bullshit,” a grinning Blagojevich reportedly told the audience when asked what he thought of the show.

Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones wrote that “the real version of the indicted and disgraced title character offered a brief but rich snapshot of his increasingly theatrical personality.

Blagojevich only showed up at the start of the Navy Pier show, and in the improv set at the end. But he still found time to recite a portion of the St. Crispin’s Day speech from “Henry V,” shill for his wife’s reality TV show set in the jungles of Costa Rica (“If you can vote for her, please do”), invite the cast of this “fictional show” to dinner (“we’ll be serving tarantulas”), indict the “football” hairbrush used in the Navy Pier show as “too small,” and get off a few gags.

Blagojevich and the cast members weren’t the only ones getting laughs that night. At one point, an audience member cracked a joke at Blagojevich’s expense.

“What are you reading right now?,” asked Bland, searching for material. “Transcripts,” muttered one fellow in the audience, perhaps less amused than some at the main act in the ring.

And then there was the following nugget, shared by NBC 5 Chicago News reporter Lauren Jiggetts.

“On a totally random note, Blagojevich introduced a friend of his that was in the audience,” Jiggetts said. “That person was Fabio, the man that’s graced many a romance novel. We’re not quite sure what the connection is there.”

So here is my question: When Fabio first saw the former governor appear on stage, did he exclaim, “I can’t believe it’s not Blago!” before realizing Rod was the real deal? (Yeah, that was too easy, but somebody had to make the joke.)

UPDATE: Second City Vice President Kelly Leonard tweeted this message on Twitter early Sunday morning: “FYI – Fabio wasn’t at the show – that was Rod’s friend – pretty good joke on his part, I must say…”

In other words, we were fooled by Rod again …

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Curious about the show “Rod Blagojevich Superstar”? I saw it in late April. Click here to read my review.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter Monday through Thursday for live updates about what Patti Blagojevich and the other quasi-celebrities are up to on “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” I’ll also continue to post nightly episode recaps of the show here on The Bread Line as long as Patti is still on the show.

Let me preface this post with an “I told you so”: I predicted this would happen three months ago.

The real Rod Blagojevich is scheduled to appear during Saturday night’s performance of “Rod Blagojevich Superstar,” a Second City satire that mocks Blago’s political career. Here’s the skinny, according to Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune:

According to the show’s producer Kelly Leonard, the indicted and impeached former Illinois governor has been contracted to show up during the show to help announce the extension of the satirical spoof through Aug. 9 (and possibly beyond). Blagojevich will also take part in the improv set that follows the show.

Leonard wouldn’t discuss on the record what financial deal had been made with Blagojevich, but said that a portion of the box-office proceeds on Saturday night will be donated to the charity Gilda’s Club.

“Rod Blagojevich Superstar” is performed upstairs at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier.

Leonard also said that the former governor is expected to watch the show—which is harshly critical of his political career. “We’ve been told he’s really curious and has a great sense of humor,” Leonard said.

I’d love to be sitting near Blago as the show is performed, so I could see his reaction to various parts of the play — especially when Lori McClain sings her gloriously profane song as Pottymouth Patti Blagojevich.

For the record, I still think the real Blagojevich should be worked into the play as Joey Bland, the actor who portrays him in “Rod Blagojevich Superstar.” Remember, Blagojevich interviewed Bland on WLS-AM in March; in a reversal of roles, Bland (as Blagojevich) could interview Blagojevich (as Bland). Wouldn’t that be funny?

(I saw “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” in late April. Click here to read my review.)

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“I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here,” starring Patti Blagojevich and a bunch of has-been celebrities, didn’t air tonight because of the Stanley Cup Finals. However, NBC will make up for that by airing a two-hour episode tomorrow night. As usual, I’ll watch it so you don’t have to. I’ll tweet live updates as the show airs and later post an episode recap here on The Bread Line.

Glad to see the Majestic Theatre reopened in Streator last weekend. The 102-year-old theater closed at the end of March after struggling financially since reopening in May 2007.

People from Pennsylvania are now operating the landmark theater, and I wish them luck. But I wonder how much more successful they can be than Kyle and Cindy Mitchell, who metaphorically poured their blood, sweat and tears into the Majestic during the two years they ran it. I think they did a great job promoting the theater through contests and other special events, and Kyle in particular was more visibly involved in the community than many other downtown business owners.

Unfortunately, the Majestic Theatre is no stranger to being closed for business. The Majestic has been shut down at least six times since first opening in 1907, and the city condemned the building in the 1950s. Yet it has cheated death again, and I hope the community supports it even more now that it is reopened.

The Majestic Theatre has a storied past, one that I enjoyed researching for a newspaper article as the building’s centennial approached. Before it became a movie house, the Majestic hosted music, comedy and vaudeville acts such as Jack Benny and Groucho Marx.

My favorite Majestic story is that of a couple who married onstage — accompanied by a pride of lions! Here’s how I described it in the aforementioned newspaper article:

An Aug. 5, 1907, story in the Streator Daily Free Press told of Majestic Manager F.H. Cox’s desire to find a couple to marry onstage in a den of African lions. The story concluded with the following quote, essentially daring someone to take Cox up on his offer.

“It requires some nerve to get married and agree to support a woman for life. Where is there a man in Streator or vicinity who will agree to do this with a half dozen lions glaring at him?”

On Saturday, Aug. 17, 1907, Ernest Payne and Kate Thomas were married in a lion cage in front of more than 1,000 guests at the Majestic. The Rev. E.A. Cantrell, minister of the Church of Good Will, officiated and delivered a 10-minute sermon about “marriage in the lions’ den.”

Inside the cage, the trained lions were not more than a dozen feet away from the couple. The couple stood at the back of the cage facing the audience, and the minister faced the bride and groom. Cardona, a French lion tamer armed with a whip, stood between the lions and the others. The minister invoked God’s blessing on the couple, then on the lions.

To read the entire newspaper article, click here.

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Second City announced Friday it extended the run of its hit musical spoof “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” through Sunday, June 14, at Navy Pier’s Chicago Shakespeare Theater “due to tremendous demand and irresistible new source material provided daily by the former governor.”

I saw “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” last weekend and loved it. Writer Ed Furman and music lyricist T.J. Shanoff worked in numerous references from throughout the Blagogate saga, including the allegations that Blagojevich tried to sell a U.S. Senate seat and get members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board fired, Blagojevich’s media blitz (including his infamous comparison of himself to Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi), Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s description of Blagojevich as “cuckoo,” and Blagojevich’s desire to be dropped into the heart of the Costa Rican jungle for a reality TV show. There also is a wonderful reference to his hairbrush, dubbed “the football” by the ex-governor, who breaks down during the show and proclaims, “Must brush hair for power!”

The breakdown leads into a gloriously profane song sung by Lori McClain as Patti Blagojevich, who in real life is heard swearing in the background of wiretapped phone conversations between her husband and his co-conspirators. Pottymouth Patti gets a laugh every time she swears, and sometimes she curses in shockingly funny ways. She also is portrayed as the brains behind Rod’s charmingly naive “scrapper,” who gets seduced into the Chicago political machine by his wife and her father, Chicago Alderman Richard Mell.

Of course, no Blagojevich spoof would be complete without somebody playing Roland Burris, who Blagojevich appointed to fill President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat after being accused of trying to sell it to the highest bidder. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also are characters in the play, which, as you might expect, pretty much wrote itself as it unfolded in real life.

And it continues to. While “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” lasts only 55 minutes (one of my few complaints about the play), it is followed by a brief intermission and an improv session that fills out the rest of your 90-minute date with the Second City troupe. Beginning May 7, the improv segment will include a game called “Rod Island,” which Second City describes as “portraying a never-before-seen bootleg copy of the pilot for Rod Blagojevich’s new reality television show.” Too bad I missed that.

Here’s the Bread Line bottom line: If you find humor in the ongoing Blagojevich scandal — even if it’s a sad kind of gallows humor — you’ll enjoy “Rod Blagojevich Superstar.” Click here for more details.

My apologies to readers who visited The Bread Line looking for commentary about former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich being ordered to stay in the United States as he awaits trial on criminal corruption charges rather than be allowed to travel to Costa Rica to participate in an NBC reality TV show. My Internet server wasn’t at its best while I was home yesterday, and last night I was at Wrigley Field watching the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-2. I will write about Blagojevich later, including my review of the Second City spoof “Rod Blagojevich Superstar,” which I saw last weekend.

But first things first: The Cubs looked good Tuesday night, remembering how to hit and pitch like a team expected to win its division. Micah Hoffpauir hit a solo homer and drove in another run with a sacrifice fly, but the rookie and his .375 batting average will be back to bench-warming duty when Milton Bradley returns to the lineup tonight. Rich Harden pitched well, striking out eight batters while allowing just three hits and two walks in six innings. I probably saw right-handed relief pitcher Luis Vizcaino’s last appearance for the Cubs, too, as he is expected to be designated for assignment Thursday to make room on the roster for Jeff Samardzija.

It was a fun night to be in the left-field bleachers. (I think the cold and wet weather dampened the drunkeness of the bleacher bums.) Cubs left-fielder Alfonso Soriano obviously enjoys the attention he gets out there, gesturing to fans and tossing a baseball into the stands before the start of each inning. As for the Reds’ left-fielder, rookie Chris Dickerson was showered with harmless taunting from the fans all night. My favorite fan chant was “Fee, fi, fo, fum, Dickerson’s a stinkin’ bum!”

The fans around me were annoying when they chanted “Bartman!” at a fan who caught a foul ball along the left-field foul line in the fourth inning, even though location was just about the only thing in common between that play and the infamous foul-ball incident involving a fan in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series. Soriano had no chance at catching that foul ball last night. Moises Alou had a better chance of catching the foul ball in the 2003 NLCS, even though years later Alou admitted he wouldn’t have caught it. (Recall that Alou threw a hissy fit in the outfield, unnerving the Cubs enough for them to blow the game and the series. When Alou and others cast blame on the fan, they ruined the reputation of the fan, who still unfairly gets blamed for the team’s 2003 postseason choke.)

Also in the fourth inning of last night’s game, a calico cat made an unexpected appearance in the outfield, delaying the game for a few minutes. Official word is it was a stray cat that found its way into the ballpark, though I’m skeptical about the veracity of that story. But at least it wasn’t a black cat.

Time to watch Game 2 of the Cubs-Reds series.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich pleaded not guilty this morning to 16 felony charges of criminal corruption, including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal agents. His brother, Robert, also pleaded not guilty to related charges. (Three others charged in the case are set to be arraigned Thursday.)

I haven’t seen pictures of the media scrum outside the courtroom, but by all accounts I’ve read, reporters and photographers swarmed the ex-governor like a plaque of locusts, pushing and shoving each other like baseball fans fighting over a notable home run ball. The media circus scene led to the following Blagojevich quote, as reported by the Chicago Tribune:

One cameraman used an expletive as he was shoved, then apologized to Blagojevich for his language.

“It’s alright, man. I heard it before,” Blagojevich said. “Listen to some of those tapes.” 

Then there is this juicy nugget from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Rod Blagojevich’s lawyer, Sheldon Sorosky, asked for a quick return to court so he can seek expanded travel privileges. Blagojevich, 52, wants to be allowed to go to Costa Rica to film a reality TV show there but needs the judge’s permission.

I’m not surprised that Blagojevich wants to be on a reality TV show, but why is it being filmed in Costa Rica? What exactly will he be doing on the show — fleeing the country to avoid prosecution? Maybe he will hang out with film director Roman Polanski and complain about the U.S. judicial system. Or maybe Blago will get his hair braided and sing Bob Marley songs. (Yes, I know Marley was from Jamaica, not Costa Rica — but the visual still works, doesn’t it, mon?)

In other Blagogate news, the Sun-Times reported Monday that two members of Chicago’s Indian community told Robert Blagojevich (who headed the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund for his brother) that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. would raise up to $5 million in campaign cash for the former governor if he was appointed to President Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. It is unclear whether Jackson played a role in authorizing the alleged offer.

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My wife and I have tickets to see the Second City spoof “Rod Blagojevich Superstar,” which parodies the ongoing Blagogate saga. Make sure to check back here after Saturday to read my take on the play.

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